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Understanding Maradona

Understanding Maradona


Diego Maradona, infamous for his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England at the 1986 World Cup, was a complex character. It is only after his death that people are really starting to understand one of the greatest players football has ever seen.


Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world of football.

How much do we really know about Diego Maradona?


It’s 35 years since Argentina’s Diego Maradona scored the infamous “Hand of God”  goal in the World Cup quarter-final against  England.

“And that is why England are so furious. As Maradona has punched it in with his left hand. Shilton slightly slow coming off his line maybe. Maradona has deceived the officials.”


Even though decades have passed, the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton still can’t let it go. 

“Yeah, I’ve still not forgiven Diego Maradona…so Diego…

“Have you spoken with him, have you…?”

“No, I’ve never met him so you know…but I’ve been a little bit like Terry Butcher, I don’t think I’d be over the moon to shake hands with him.”

Hayters TV

The “Hand of God” wasn’t decisive. Argentina won 2-1. 

Maradona also scored the second. And that would get a name too – “the goal of the century.” 

“Maradona brilliantly just gets away from Reid…and now motors up through the gears…and he’s beaten Butcher…and he’s beaten Fenwick…it’s Diego Maradona and it is quite magnificent.” 



Football presenter, author and journalist Guillem Balague has recently written a book about Diego Maradona.

As part of his research, he asked a number of English people in their thirties if they could come up with one word to describe him.

“I was surprised by the results. Only one said cheat. The rest talked about genius, talent, magical…a lot of very good words. Which seems to me that Peter Shilton has failed in his trying…his trying to put him as the villain of the piece.”

Guillem Balague

It seems that not everyone is as hung up on Diego Maradona’s handball as Peter Shilton still is. 

But the Argentinian was no saint.

We know, for example, that a lot of his behaviour was fuelled by his drug addiction.  

So to really dig into the complexities of Diego Maradona, Guillem Balague looked beyond the already well-trodden path.


“The first thing to say about Maradona is that he was – and this might surprise many – not just a genius and marvellous talent, but he was the first at many things. And you know what happens when you are the first…many people don’t understand you or you’re on your own in that journey. But time tells you actually his walk into the unknown was for the advancement of football.”

Guillem Balague

He found that Diego Maradona was the first player to have a fitness coach, an agent, and his own press officer. And that he alleged there was corruption at FIFA and UEFA. 


Diego Maradona’s allegations were ignored, but later charges – against former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini – suggest that he might have been right. 

Diego Maradona believed that footballers had rights, and he tried to set up a players’ union. 

That was in 1995, just after he failed a drugs test at the USA World Cup and was sent home in disgrace. 

Unsurprisingly, his efforts to unionise failed. 

Guillem Balague says that whatever you think of Diego Maradona, he is one of the most amazing personalities in the history of the game.

“Nobody had so many layers and there’s nobody with so many paradoxes and conflicts within himself.”

Guillem Balague

But Maradona’s divisive personality did cause him problems… 

“UEFA, FIFA, they didn’t wanna help him. When he went back, football didn’t help him. When he really struggled with drugs, football didn’t help him. Partly because he was seen as an enemy by the authorities.” 

Guillem Balague

Throughout his career, Diega Maradona trod a fine line between genius and madness. 

His, is a complex story and one we’re only really getting to grips with after his death.


Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and produced by Imy Harper.